AeroPAC Safety Rules

As a Tripoli prefecture, AERO-PAC obeys and enforces the safety rules of Tripoli :

AERO-PAC Board considers the safety of people attending launches to be their most important responsibility.  The Tripoli Safety Code is sound but cannot consider every launch site and every launch event.  Since our events tend to be of a large size with people attending from many states and countries, we feel it is prudent to take a somewhat more conservative position on certain aspects of safety.  We also occasionally find certain equipment restrictions to be in keeping with running a smooth and safe schedule of events.

It is not the intent of these regulations to supplant or replace the regulations contained in the Tripoli Safety Code, but rather to extend the safety code in order to increase the safety of spectators and participants during the preparation, launching, and recovery of large, complex high performance rockets at AERO-PAC sponsored high power launches.

1. Scope

  • 1.1 These regulations shall apply to the preparation, launching, and recovery of specific rockets flown at high power rocket launches sponsored by AERO-PAC.
  • 1.2 These regulations do not supplant or reduce in any way the Tripoli Safety Code or the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) Code 1127.
  • 1.3 These regulations shall apply to specifically designated high performance rockets, as well as to special rockets that incorporate on board motor ignition and more than 2560 N-sec (576 lb-sec) of total impulse, and to rockets flown at night.
  • 1.4 These regulations shall apply to high performance rockets that, by their design and weight are capable of achieving extreme altitudes and impacting with sufficient force as to likely cause severe bodily injury.
  • 1.5 These regulations shall apply to rockets with specific design features or characteristics that are either restricted or disallowed.

2. Purpose

  • 2.1 It is the intent of these regulations to ensure the safety of the participants and spectators at AERO-PAC high power launches by adding further guidelines regulating the preparation, launching, and recovery of high performance and special rockets.
  • 2.2 These regulations are intended to specify conditions for the flying of high performance and special rockets that go beyond those described in the Tripoli Safety Code and the National Fire Prevention Association Code.

3. Definitions

Arming. The final action that enables an electrical ignition system to fire, usually by either throwing an arming switch or pulling a safety pin.

Away Cell. A special launch area for specific rockets that is located at a distance farther from the main launch control area than is reached by the main launch controller cables.

Complex Rocket. Any rocket having more than one motor, whether staged or clustered, or staged and clustered.  (See also "Special Rocket")

Bowling Ball Rocket. Bowling ball rockets are rockets built with or containing bowling balls, usually for the simple challenge of altitude contests involving the lofting of a specific size of bowling ball.

Final preparation. The action of making the final electrical connections to the igniter wires after it is placed in a rocket motor.

High performance rocket. A rocket with impulse of 2560 N-sec or greater, or capable of attaining a significantly high altitude so as to pose a special hazard.

Launch Control Officer (LCO). The person who is responsible for operating the launch controller and initiating the ignition sequence.

Launch Director. The person elected to the AERO-PAC Board of Directors who is officially responsible for the operation of all AERO-PAC rocket launches.

Non-Traditional Rocket. Non-traditional rockets are rockets such as spool rockets, rockets made from bar-be-queues, picnic tables, lawn chairs, or in the likeness of any object that does not lend itself to the traditional CP/CG stability analysis that an RSO is required to verify.

On board ignition system. Refers to an electric or electronic device, such as a timer, G-switch, motion detection switch, or altimeter switch that uses a battery contained within the rocket to ignite a rocket motor.

Igniter preparation. The placing of an igniter into a rocket motor, exclusive of the final preparation, which consists of electrically connecting the igniter.

Range Safety Officer (RSO). The person who is officially responsible for the safe launching of a rocket which he inspects and certifies as air worthy prior to its flight.

Safety device. An electrical switch or pin that reduces the risk of accidental ignition by either shunting across the igniter leads and/or opening the power circuit to the ignition device.

Safety Team. A team composed of the AERO-PAC Launch Director, or his designee, and one other Senior RSO.

Special Rockets. Refers to "Complex Rockets" staged and other multi-motor rockets that incorporate on board ignition systems and more than 2560 N-sec (576 lb-sec) of total impulse.

Special Night Rockets. Refers to rockets flown at night with total installed impulse greater then 1280 N-seconds ("K" and above.)

Senior RSO. A Tripoli member with extensive experience in high power rocketry as identified by the Board of Directors of AERO-PAC.

Special Preparation Area. An area away from the spectator and parking area that is designated by the AERO-PAC launch director for motor and igniter preparation of special rockets, or an area agreed on by the RSO, near an away cell, where a specific rocket will be prepared.

4. Preparation of Rocket Motor Igniters.

  • 4.1 High performance rockets with total impulse of 2560 N-sec or greater, and all special rockets using on board ignition systems, shall have the motor igniter(s) placed into the rocket motor(s) only while at the designated Special Preparation Area, Away Cell, or at the launch pad with the rocket secured in an upright position.
  • 4.2 Rockets using low current igniters, such as electric matches or flash bulb igniters, with combined total impulse of 2560 N-sec or greater, shall have the motor igniter(s) placed into the rocket motor(s) only while at the designated Special Preparation Area, Away Cell, or at the launch pad.
  • 4.3 All rockets in the Special Preparation Area and Away Cells must be oriented so that if a premature ignition accidentally occurs, the rocket will be propelled in a safe direction away from the spectators and other fliers.
  • 4.4 No smoking is permitted while placing an igniter into a rocket motor, carrying a motor with an igniter in it, standing in the flight line awaiting pad assignment, or at the rocket pads. No smoking is permitted in the Special Preparation Area.
  • 4.5 Only authorized crew, launch officials, and persons directly involved in the preparation of high performance and special rockets, will be permitted in the Special Preparation Area.

5. Inspection of Special Rockets

  • 5.1 High performance rockets, and multi-stage rockets using on board ignition systems, may exceed the experience level of the RSO on duty when presented.  In this case the RSO should require that the rocket be inspected and certified by the Safety Team before being taken to a Special Preparation Area or given a pad assignment.
  • 5.2 The design of onboard ignition systems must be reviewed by the RSO or the Safety Team to ensure that the planed arming procedure is safe.  Generally this calls for a "Top Down" process wherein the recovery systems are armed first prior to any motor igniting systems, and working down from the top of the rocket (if on ladders) so that the final arming is done from the ground (if possible).
  • 5.3 When there is significant concern regarding the safety or stability of a high performance or special rocket, the rocket must be reviewed and approved by the Safety Team before it is launched.

6. Final Preparation and Arming

  • 6.1 Following motor and igniter placement in the Special Preparation Area or the Away Cell, the igniter(s) shall be shorted until ready for final preparation.
  • 6.2 Final preparation, consisting of electrically connecting the igniter wires to the ignition circuit, shall be done only after the rocket is placed in the launch device and is secured in an upright position.
  • 6.3 A minimum of persons needed to assist the main operator shall be present at the time of final preparation.
  • 6.4 Arming of onboard ignition systems shall be accomplished as the last step by the main operator only.
  • 6.5 High performance rockets shall be launched at an angle of no less than 3 degrees from vertical and oriented in a direction away from the LCO and spectator area.
  • 6.6 The Safety Team has the right to require a larger launch angle if indicated by wind and flying field conditions.

7. Minimum Clearance Distances

  • 7.1 The minimum distance for high performance rockets to be launched from the LCO and spectator areas is specified in the Safe Distance Table (see below).
  • 7.2 High performance rockets that are flown from Away Cells will be in two-way communications with the AERO-PAC LCO at all times.
  • 7.3 The launch of a high performance or special rocket from an Away Cell shall be under the voice control of the AERO-PAC LCO who shall announce the final countdown on the public address system.

8. Public Notification

  • 8.1 Signs shall be posted at Aero-Pac high power launches to alert passersby that potentially hazardous activities are being conducted in the vicinity.

9. Conduct

  1. 9.1     It is expected of all participants and spectators that they will conduct themselves in a manner that will not place them selves or anyone else in a potentially hazardous situation.
  2. 9.2     During launch hours there is NO bike riding, and NO sitting in chairs or on the ground on the flight line.  We require that your dogs be on a leash and that your young children are closely supervised during launch hours as well. At all times, listen and pay attention -- when you hear a siren and/or a heads up call, stop what you are doing and look up!
  3. 9.3     The discharge of any weapon or pyrotechnic device, including fireworks, explosives, and hand held launchers such as bazookas, is expressly prohibited at all AERO-PAC launches.
  4. 9.4     The BLM has a "leave no trace" policy, this means that AERO-PAC also has the same policy.  This means that you MUST take out EVERYTHING that you bring onto the playa.  This includes pet waste, peanut shells, sunflower seed hulls, cigarette butts -- everything.  Nothing biodegrades on the playa, so again please take all of your trash/waste with you.  A pet waste bag dispenser has been provided for your convenience and is located by the RSO table. 
  5. 9.5     Also, there will be NO pit fires; all fires must be in above ground containers.  The BLM considers burn marks and ashes on the playa as damage to the playa, and a violation of the leave no trace policy.
  6. 9.6     DO NOT throw trash in the porta-potties.  AERO-PAC pays a significant price to provide toilet facilities and to transport them to and from the launch site.  If the vendor finds trash in them we get fined heavily.  Carry your trash out with you like everybody else!

10. Safe Distance Table

Installed Total Impulse (N-sec) Motor Type Min. Safe Distance (ft) Min. Safe Distance Complex

160.01-320.00 H 50 100

320.01-640.00 I 100 200

640.01-1280.00 J 100 200

1280.01-2560.00 K 200 300

2560.01-5120.00 L 300 500

5120.01-10,240.00 M 500 1000

10,240.01-20,480.00 N 1000 1500

20,480.01-40,960.00 O 1500 2000

Complex rockets (multi-staged or multi-motored) require next higher distance.

11. Night Launch Operations

  • 11.1    Complex rockets (multi-staged or multi-motored) are not allowed during night launch operations at all AERO-PAC launches.
  • 11.2    All night launched rockets must conform to minimum FAA lighting requirements (additional lighting is allowed).
  • 11.3    Rockets are restricted to using motors with total impulse of 1280 N-seconds or less ("J" impulse range maximum) without pre-approval from the AERO-PAC Board of Directors.
  • 11.4    The Board of Directors may give approval to fly a "Special Night Rocket" with a total installed impulse in excess of 1280 N-seconds if in the view of the Board the flight planned has a high potential for success.  The board may choose to limit the number of Special Night Rocket flights approved for any Aero-Pac event (by setting a quota).  The quota may be as low as zero.
  • 11.5    To be eligible for consideration, the request must be made no less then one week (7-days) prior to the Club Meeting held before the launch event, and it is advisable to submit requests as early as possible.  Submissions should be made through the Launch Director.
  • 11.6    The Board will render a decision on the submissions no later then the Board Meeting held in advance of the club meeting prior to the launch event.
  • 11.7    The Board will decide to approve, deny or defer the request.  Requests may be deferred pending a request of further detail or because the quota has been reached for special night rocket flights for the event.
  • 11.8    To be considered, the requests for approval from the Board should include all of the following:
  • 11.8.1    An accurate and detailed design of the rocket must be presented to the board.  Unless other arrangements are made with the Board, this plan should be in a ".RKT" file (RockSim) format.
  • 11.8.2    An accurate description of the lighting plan, including the lighting that meets FAA lighting requirements must be submitted.  The lighting plan MUST include a high reliability light on each major section of the rocket to reduce the possibility that recovery failure, shred, separation, or other in flight failure might result in a large or heavy object freefalling without lighting.
  • 11.8.3    A detailed flight plan must be submitted.  The flight plan must identify the motor that will be used (total impulse, average thrust, maximum lift off weight, and burn time), as well as the lift-off weight of the rocket, thrust to weight ratio at lift-off, maximum speed, and altitude calculations.  The flight plan must also include the recovery plan data.  The recovery plan must include number of separate rocket components (parts not tethered together) that will come down under parachutes.  The each separate component must be identified and include: recovery mass, parachute size or sizes, and calculated decent rates.
  • 11.8.4    Rocketeer & Ground Crew information.  The rocketeer must provide their name, certifying organization and member number, their current certification level and certification date, and the number of flights flown in the previous year at or above the level of the proposed flight.  (If certified longer than one year at the level of the flight, you may choose to state a number of years & flights.)  Similar information on other members, if this is a team effort, requested but not required.
  • 11.9    Special Night Rockets approved by the Board must be presented for RSO inspection to the Safety Team during daylight hours on the day of the launch.  The rocket is subject to standard RSO requirements, plus they must meet the design submitted to and approved by the Board.


12. Other Restrictions

  • 12.1     Metal Rail Buttons: Because they have been found to be the cause of major and unwarranted wear, metal rail buttons are not allowed on AERO-PAC provided launch rails.  Rockets with these buttons may be flown, but only on user provided launch rails.  Aluminum (or non-metallic) "conformal" launch guides are allowed.
  • 12.2     Tall Rockets: Rockets requiring pad preparation access higher then the rocketeer must be prepared using safe and proper equipment such as ladders, scaffolding or other man-rated devices which are positioned in such a way as to not hinder retreat from the rocket.
  • 12.3     Bowling Ball and Non-Traditional Rockets:  The AERO-PAC Board is not in favor of blanket restrictions, but in the interest of safety, the board requires pre-approval to fly bowling ball rockets because of safety concerns.  The Board also requires pre-approval for non-traditional rockets because of the difficulty that these rockets present to an RSO.   Please seek board approval prior to any launch event where you hope to fly such rockets.  Refer to the approval process described in 11.8 for guidelines in requesting advanced board approvals. 


13. Procedures for flights over 50,000 feet

  • Aero-Pac review and approval is required for flights that will go over 50,000 ft. We will review these flights for safety and to insure they will operate within the regulations we follow. Our FAA waiver is for airspace up to 200,000' MSL and defines a cylinder with 8 nautical mile radius. All aspects of each flight, including recovery, must take place within that cylinder. We often move our launch-site to accommodate prevailing wind and help keep flights within allowed space.
  • If you plan to fly above 50,000', submit the online form  30 days in advance of the launch with information describing your flight. Include your calculations and software simulations describing how you will accomplish a safe flight within our altitude waiver and with recovery within waiver airspace under prevailing wind conditions.
  • We will be enforcing these maximum drogue chute sizes.
  • 3" M  powered rocket = 16" max. drogue
  • 4" M or N rocket  = 24" max. drogue
  • 5" O powered rocket = 36" max drogue
  •  For M and above staged flights, we will enforce these maximum sustainer drogue sizes.
  •  38mm = 6" max
  • 54mm  = 10" max
  • 3"  = 16 max
  •  Flights above 100,000’ require independent Tripoli review which will be required before your flight is granted final approval.

14. Separate waiver required for Class 3 flights

  • FAA regulations have changed as a result of the 12/08 amendments. Our 09 waiver is in place based on the new regulations. It is clear that any rocket with total impulse above 40,960 N-sec (P and larger) is now a Class 3 Advanced High Power Rocket and not covered by our blanket waiver

15. Tripoli Mentor Program (TMP)

TRA developed the Tripoli Mentor program to encourage young people to participate in high power rocketry. As a part of that program, members between 12 and 18 years of age can complete a training program, pass a test and gain access to high-power pad areas. Under the supervision of a appropriately certified mentor for the flight, these junior members are permitted to assist with some aspects of HP rocket flights. Because all AeroPac launches are conducted under research rules, to avoid conflict with other regulations, and to clarify parts of the program, Aero-Pac will enforce the following with respect to qualified junior members under the TMP :

  • On completion of the training program and after passing the TMP test the junior member is qualified to assist in HP flights.
  • The junior member's name can be listed on the flight card along with the mentor.
  • The junior can accompany the mentor to the high-power pad area(s).
  • The junior can provide assistance to the mentor in the preparation and launching of a high-power rocket.
  • Any assistance provided must be compliant with NFPA 1127, thus the junior member is specifically restricted from performing motor assembly, motor installation, significant transportation of the loaded rocket and installation of ignition devices.

RSO Procedure for extreme rocket projects

  • To assist flyers and RSOs alike, Aero-Pac implemented a policy for RSO approval of complex High Power Rocket projects with more then 5,120 Newton Seconds of installed thrust. 
  • If you are planning on flying a staged or clustered rocket with total installed power in the M or above range, please take note of this new procedure. 
  • We sincerely hope that this process will make flying of large and complex projects both easier and safer.


  • Many extreme rocket projects are difficult, impractical, or unsafe to carry to the RSO table for final approval to fly. 
  • Projects such as multi-stage rockets that can not be assembled completely without placing igniters into motors, present a safety issue if carried through the crowd to the RSO table.  
  • Large rockets that simply are too big to carry also present a problem with the conventional RSO process and sometimes, with a fairly new Level 2 flyer volunteering to do RSO duty, it is easily possible to face a situation where the RSO is simply not experienced enough to properly address the large complex Level 3 project.


We will be providing RSO services IN YOUR CAMP for these types of projects. 

  • The Launch Director, Assistant Launch Director, and Prefect will keep track of the TAP members, and other highly qualified rocketeers who are present and willing to provide this service.  The names of the RSO/TAP members will be announced at the flyers meetings. 
  • Rocketeers who need this level of service, and RSOs who do not feel qualified to approve a given rocket, are asked to please call on these members to perform the RSO check outs. 
  • The rocketeer should fill out a flight card as usual, and then when the rocket is prepped for flight, call for the RSO.  
  • If you cannot easily locate one of these members, ask the Launch Director or Assistant Launch Director for assistance.
  • Once inspected and signed off, you will only need to deliver the flight card to the LCO for pad assignment.  Once you have a pad assigned and the LCO gives you the go ahead, you will be allowed to drive your rocket directly to the pad.

Contact an AeroPac RSO 

  • To avoid any unpleasant last minute surprises and to help speed the RSO process on site, pleasesubmit as much information about these complex projects as you can in advance of the launch.  By doing this, we can distribute the information to the TAP (or other) members who will be performing RSO duties behind the lines at the launch. 
  • It will make it easier for the RSO because they will be able to get familiar with your project prior to launch day, AND it will take less of their time away from flying. 

We need your consent to load the translations

We use a third-party service to translate the website content that may collect data about your activity. Please review the details in the privacy policy and accept the service to view the translations.